opinion piece Consolidation Drives Network Performance 6 Feet Under

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1 opinion piece Consolidation Drives Network Performance 6 Feet Under

2 Contents Consolidation drives network performance 6 feet under 01 Centralisation, consolidation and virtualisation... is there a universal key to ensure these initiatives deliver the promised results? 01 Is the hype justified? 01 Pitfall 1: Poorly performing branch office networks Pitfall 2: Poorly performing workers Leapfrog over mistakes and straight to success with this winning strategy Branch office network considerations: Your critical checklist The network security requirements of the branch The types and number of applications that the branch will need to access Whether the branch will use a direct to the Net strategy Whether the branch network will carry voice traffic How IT services such as file, print, DNS, and DHCP will be delivered locally Performance optimisation technology: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail Branch office consolidation: The winning approach 03

3 Consolidation drives network performance 6 feet under Ever wished you had an early warning system about some of the technology mistakes you ve made in the past? That you could have avoided some of the expensive errors you ve made, or done things in a way that would have changed the outcome and effect of your technology decisions? Sometimes the dividing line between success and failure is no more than a moment s informed analysis or a word of advice from someone who s been down the same road and learnt some hard lessons firsthand. In this article, we aim to give you just that... an insider s view based on market feedback and firsthand experience out in the field that can make all the difference between a technology solution that works for your business and one that doesn t. If you re looking at branch office consolidation as a technology option, read on to discover how a small but incredibly important piece of advice can save you from an expensive technology mistake. Centralisation, consolidation and virtualisation... is there a universal key to ensure these initiatives deliver the promised results? Through many client engagements across the world, we ve often remarked on how IT departments in modern organisations walk a fine line in balancing operations, strategy and focus. They need to support the agile and aggressive nature of the business and deliver applications to a highly mobile workforce and, at the same time, save costs to deliver more to the bottom line. Add to this the legal requirement that they work within stringent regulatory frameworks to ensure business compliance, and the complexities of making the right strategic decisions for the IT department (and through this, for the business itself) become overwhelming. These are the operational realities IT departments face every day of each successive financial year, and we are always looking for answers to the questions of how to do things in newer, better, and more cost-effective ways. The question is what part do centralisation, consolidation and virtualisation play in answering this puzzle? Over and above the savings in infrastructure and operational costs, branch office infrastructure consolidation can also reduce carbon emissions a growing and, increasingly important commercial, concern in IT. Is the hype justified? You may have heard a lot of hype and fanfare about or been caught up in the huge surge of interest in centralisation, consolidation and virtualisation. It seems as if every trade journal, tech observer and industry consultant is talking about these initiatives and exploring the benefits and results they can deliver. But how much is hype, what are the gurus not telling us, and how easy is this technology to implement? Is it really the universal band aid that some proponents are punting it as? Taking an objective stance, you can see that reducing costs and achieving compliance are two strong drivers behind the trend compelling drivers because these are pain-points that are felt uniformly across all business and market segments. The premise is that fewer data centres, fewer servers and fewer storage devices mean less hardware and so lower support and maintenance costs. It s an immensely attractive business case, and to make it even more compelling, virtualisation technologies allow companies to provide more resilience on their data centre hardware, application servers, wide area network (WAN) devices and increasingly also on their data centre network environment. So far, so good... and in the next logical step, this approach is being extended to cover branch office IT infrastructure consolidation. This is where we hit the first real cautionary sign in the stampede towards consolidation. Stop and ask yourself, what impact might this use of consolidation and virtualisation have on my business? Across the board, organisations are reducing the number of servers and network devices deployed in their remote branches to reduce the cost of opening and establishing new branches, and minimise support and ongoing maintenance costs of branch infrastructure. Some organisations have seen up to an 85% reduction in their branch office IT footprint. Over and above the savings in infrastructure and operational costs, branch office infrastructure consolidation can also reduce carbon emissions a growing and, increasingly important commercial, concern in IT. It all sounds good, but look slightly below the surface and there are cautionary signs that not everyone is detecting. A primary source of the problems experienced with 01

4 consolidation projects is a failure to understand how the underlying network architecture is affected by additional loads that it was not designed to bear. When branch offices are consolidated, network traffic patterns change dramatically. A higher proportion of users may now access corporate applications from remote sites and branch offices than that connect directly from the location where the applications reside. In addition, employees are more mobile than ever and they re more tech savvy. Employees are pushing the envelope today and now expect corporate IT teams to support the same applications that they use at home, such as Skype and Instant Messenger. They re demanding rich functionality and more flexible access, also resulting in a significant impact on network traffic patterns. These early warning signs are cause for concern. Smarter IT departments are taking note of these, looking for ways to overcome them, and so safeguarding their investment in the network. Pitfall 1: Poorly performing branch office networks One of the unwanted symptoms of consolidating branch infrastructure is that the performance of application delivery is significantly reduced. Applications that run effectively over local area networks (LANs) often do not run well over WAN links and tend to be very slow. In addition to the longer distances that application traffic is now expected to run, are the significant changes to the type of traffic that users get delivered to their laptops, desktops and mobile devices. These receive a mix of data, voice and video traffic, and a much higher percentage of web traffic as we see a move to web applications and outsourced software as a service (SaaS) IT application models. Pitfall 2: Poorly performing workers Users who have a poor experience when trying to access applications to do their job functions are unproductive and have high levels of frustration. The result? De-motivated employees, lost business and high costs, all of which will hit the business where it hurts the most on the bottom-line. Leapfrog over mistakes and straight to success with this winning strategy The secret to a successful consolidation exercise is simple and obvious... and yet so often overlooked. By simply using network performance optimisation technologies as part of the branch office consolidation project, you can unlock the full potential and benefits of this strategy and ensure it works effectively in your organisation. You may think that optimisation technologies are an unnecessary expense, or over-complicate what is already a major new change... but experience proves time and time again that it s an extremely smart spend of budget. Branch office network considerations: Your critical checklist There are a number of things to consider when approaching a branch office consolidation project. Some of the important things you should cross off your check list when implementing include: The network security requirements of the branch: The branch will be as vulnerable to attack as the head office and security measures need to be implemented to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of branch data. Firewalling services, content security and filtering, intrusion prevention and VPN encryption services are important sets of functionality to have at each branch. The types and number of applications that the branch will need to access: The typical branch will access many different kinds of applications including web applications that may or may not be outsourced, ERP and CRM applications, file and print services for normal day to day work, and potentially a host of other applications that are required to run the business. It s important to understand which applications are business-critical this knowledge will form the basis of the branch office traffic policy that your performance optimisation technology will enforce. Whether the branch will use a direct to the Net strategy: Internet traffic on all networks is growing rapidly as the Internet becomes more and more important as a business tool. Sometimes an organisation will have a central Internet connectivity strategy where the only connection to the Internet is from the head office, and all branch Internet traffic needs to flow over the corporate WAN before breaking out to the Internet. Another strategy is to have a direct to the Net strategy where each branch will have its own connection and Internet traffic would not need to traverse the WAN. You need to decide upfront which of these strategies to follow. Whether the branch network will carry voice traffic: Voice traffic is more sensitive to network latency, delay and jitter than data traffic. It needs to be managed differently to ensure that the voice quality is maintained. VoIP at the branch offers significant cost savings and productivity improvements, but the performance characteristics of the voice traffic need to be carefully considered at the design stage. How IT services such as file, print, DNS, and DHCP will be delivered locally: Branch office users will need access to basic IT services such as DNS, DHCP, file and print services to allow day to day working to continue as usual. File services in particular become an important consideration when files that are accessed from branch offices are housed at a central location. File services are particularly chatty and running them over a WAN has a hugely negative performance impact, which needs to be mitigated. Performance optimisation technology: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail This is the exact stage where so many wellintended IT initiatives fall down and fail. Preparation is the secret to any successful consolidation or virtualisation project. It s not primarily about the hot new technology and all the benefits it promises but about business, and how that cool new stuff will fit in with and advance the working of your current operations. The business case for consolidating branch office infrastructure 02

5 is compelling, but how do you embark on a project like this without sacrificing the performance of the branch network? The basis for branch network performance improvements is in the use of performance optimisation technology. These technologies allow the branch network to appear as though it is connected directly to the central data centre, even though it may be on the other end of a WAN link. These technologies are able to achieve these fantastic performance improvements through a variety of functions, such as managing bandwidth, compressing data, caching content and optimising protocols. Depending on the applications and network architecture, performance improvements of over 100 times (and more in some cases) are possible. In addition, organisations have seen up to a 50% reduction in bandwidth usage, simply by optimising the traffic that flows between the branch office and the central data centre. This also means you can reduce your bandwidth costs by delaying bandwidth upgrades. There are many different options available to organisations wanting to benefit from consolidating their branch infrastructures, from stand-alone WAN Optimisation Controllers (WOCs) and Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs), to integrated performance-enhancing features within standard network equipment and combinations of security and optimisation appliances. Once the performance requirements are understood and the branch strategy defined, it becomes easier to pinpoint the technology that fulfils your needs. Organisations have seen up to a 50% reduction in bandwidth usage, simply by optimising the traffic that flows between the branch office and the central data centre. Branch office consolidation: The winning approach Don t make the same expensive blunders others are making in the headlong dash towards consolidation. It s important to have a structured approach when considering consolidating branch office infrastructure and a good understanding of your present architecture, and the best ways to optimise the new traffic flows you ll be introducing. First, it is important to understand the network traffic that is currently flowing over the links. You cannot manage what you don t know and gathering statistics, for example which applications are using the bandwidth, what the network efficiency is and what the latency of the links are, is an important first step. Second, once you have a good understanding of your critical business applications, the link needs to be structured to reserve bandwidth for these important applications. The less important applications will then get less priority to ensure that they don t crowd out the important application traffic. Third, the magic of performance optimisation technologies can be employed to accelerate the data flowing over the network. This is the step that will demonstrate the true value of these technologies and allow branch office consolidation to take place without any performance degradation. Fourth, the solution needs to be managed. Once the technology has been fully deployed it is important to continue to review the performance reports and to continue making improvements to the traffic policies to get the maximum benefit from the investment and to accommodate any infrastructure changes or new applications that are rolled out. Last, it s valuable to look for other areas within the network that would benefit from having performance optimisation technologies deployed, and scale the solution to providing performance enhancements over a wider area. The migration to consolidated and virtualised branch office infrastructure is a trend that s here to stay. But lots of people are going to make the same basic but expensive mistake in deploying these technologies and end up with underperforming networks, frustrated users and an unacceptably low return on their investment. The gap between the promise and potential of these initiatives, and what they deliver, will be unacceptably wide for those people. Avoid becoming a consolidation statistic by thinking strategically and considering network performance from the outset it cannot be ignored. Incorporating our five point action plan into your consolidation roadmap may make all the difference between implementing a winning solution, and spending a lot of money for an inadequate return. Avoid becoming a consolidation statistic by thinking strategically and considering network performance from the outset it cannot be ignored. CS / DDCC-0753 / 05/11 Copyright Dimension Data 2011 For further information 03

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